|cheddar dill scones with fresh cracked black pepper|
So....THAT was a first week at school. Sorry about Pie Friday, but by the time the weekend rolled around my head was swimming with facts about quick breads, chemical leaveners, mixing techniques, yeast, proofing, kneading, baking.....WOW.
On Sunday, while I was studying, I got a picture from my friend Caitlin. She was making biscuits. I said, how funny, I'm studying the biscuit method RIGHT NOW, and she requested a post on biscuits.
So Caitlin, this is for you.
Bear with me while I offer some quick background- I'm in study mode and I just finished reading about biscuits for the third time in a row. So HERE, learn with me!
Biscuits, like muffins and loaf breads like banana bread, are a quick bread. They use a chemical leavener (baking soda or baking powder) as opposed to yeast, so they are quick to mix and quick to make. The chemical leaveners rely on chemical reactions (exposure to acid, exposure to moisture, exposure to heat), so there's no sitting around waiting for your yeast to ferment. Quick. Simple.
When you're dealing with quick breads, there are three methods for mixing. As you might imagine, the biscuit method is what you want to use when you're making biscuits, and that simply means that you're going to keep the fat (butter) in solid form, and your goal is a light, flaky dough that will be tender on the inside when baked. It's actually quite similar to mixing a pie crust dough, so if you've been following along with Pie Friday, this might look familiar.
When you're using the biscuit method to make biscuits or scones, you'll want to begin by reading through the recipe (ALWAYS- this way if you need to do something in advance like soften butter or melt chocolate, you'll be prepared)(but this doesn't apply to biscuits)(but still, read your recipe in advance). Then measure out your ingredients. Once you're all set, you can begin mixing your "formula."
Combine your liquid ingredients in a bowl (including any eggs). Sift your dry ingredients together, then cut in your fat (the butter). Add your liquid ingredients to your dry, and mix by hand until they are JUST combined. You really don't want to over mix your dough, because that will get the gluten too active and will cause your biscuits and scones to be tough, and it inhibits rise.
Once your ingredients are combined, turn dough out onto your surface and knead it lightly four or five times. Your dough should be soft- slightly elastic, but NOT sticky. If you're using a mixer for your dough, then use a slow mixing speed and keep the mixing time to a minimum. Really, you don't want to over mix.
Now you're ready for "make-up" (the cutting before you bake). On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness. Make sure it's evenly rolled so that your biscuits are uniform. Our Chef last week was......delighted (?) by my rustic looking bread (read: not as pretty as it could be). So honestly, you haven't failed if your biscuits aren't looking like little toy soldiers, but if you roll evenly, you should be fine. Your biscuits will double in height as they're baking.
Cut the biscuits into shapes. Scones are traditionally cut into triangles, and biscuits into circles, but no one ever said you can't have a square biscuit (right, Caitlin?), or a round scone. Here is a pro tip: if you're using a circle cutter, don't twist it as you cut, just push straight down. Twisting the cutter will inhibit rise, and your biscuits will be so sad. Don't make your biscuits sad, you guys, ok?
Place your cut biscuits on a lightly greased or parchment covered baking sheet. Here's another trick: If you want biscuits that have a higher rise and softer sides, place them close together on the baking sheet. If you want crusty sides, place them farther apart.
Bake them immediately in a hot oven.
You can brush the tops with an egg wash or buttermilk before they go into the oven, or with melted butter when they come out.
Then eat them all as fast as you can and before anyone else can get their hands on them.
No, that would be terrible! Instead, allow them to cool on a wire rack, and then serve them to your friends and family.